BACKGROUND: The function of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is impaired in late-onset Alzheimer disease (LOAD), but the associated molecular mechanisms, particularly with respect to the high-risk APOE4/4 genotype, are not well understood. For this purpose, we developed a multicellular isogenic model of the neurovascular unit (NVU) based on human induced pluripotent stem cells.
METHODS: The human NVU was modeled in vitro using isogenic co-cultures of astrocytes, brain capillary endothelial-like cells (BCECs), microglia-like cells, neural stem cells (NSCs), and pericytes. Physiological and pathophysiological properties were investigated as well as the influence of each single cell type on the characteristics and function of BCECs. The barriers established by BCECs were analyzed for specific gene transcription using high-throughput quantitative PCR.
RESULTS: Co-cultures were found to tighten the barrier of BCECs and alter its transcriptomic profile under both healthy and disease conditions. In vitro differentiation of brain cell types that constitute the NVU was not affected by the LOAD background. The supportive effect of NSCs on the barrier established by BCECs was diminished under LOAD conditions. Transcriptomes of LOAD BCECs were modulated by different brain cell types. NSCs were found to have the strongest effect on BCEC gene regulation and maintenance of the BBB. Co-cultures showed cell type-specific functional contributions to BBB integrity under healthy and LOAD conditions.
CONCLUSIONS: Cell type-dependent transcriptional effects on LOAD BCECs were identified. Our study suggests that different brain cell types of the NVU have unique roles in maintaining barrier integrity that vary under healthy and LOAD conditions. .
- Molecular Diagnostics